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Monday, October 27, 2014

Sweden’s Environmental Leadership Earns #1 Ranking

Global Green Economy Index Rankings Just Released 
 "Sweden continues to assert itself as one of the “greenest” countries in the world through its innovative use of household garbage as a source of electricity and heat for its 9.5 million citizens and aims to break its oil dependency by 2020."

It’s true that Sweden came out on top in the recently released ranking of 60 countries according to sustainability by consulting firm Dual Citizen Inc. in its fourth annual Global Green Economy Index (GGEI). Norway, Costa Rica, Germany and Denmark rounded out the top five. The rankings take into account a wide range of economic indicators and datasets regarding leadership on climate change, encouragement of efficiency sectors, market facilitation and investing in green technology and sustainability, and management of ecosystems and natural capital.

Sweden’s first place finish reflects the Swedes’ ongoing commitment to climate change mitigation and sustainability policies and practices. The country is a leader in organic agriculture and renewable energy as well as per capita investment in green technology and sustainability research. Upwards of 75 percent of Swedes recycle their waste, while only four percent of the country’s garbage goes to landfills. In fact, Sweden imports garbage from other nations to burn as a renewable source of energy.

On the climate front, Sweden was one of the first countries in the world—going back to 1991—to put in place a heavy tax on fossil fuels to encourage the development of greener sources of energy. Indeed, the high price of gas there has notably boosted sales and consumption of homegrown, renewable ethanol. Just a few decades ago Sweden derived 75 percent of its energy from fossil fuels, but is on track to shrink that to 18 percent by 2020, with many Swedes clamoring for the country to abandon fossil fuels entirely at that point. As if that wasn’t enough, Sweden recently announced that it would pay a whopping $500 million over the next four years into the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund, a pool of money sourced from richer countries to help poorer ones transition to a future less dependent on polluting fossil fuels.

The United States didn’t fare so well in the GGEI, ranking just 28th overall, just behind Rwanda and slightly ahead of Canada. Despite leadership in green technology and environmental awareness, Americans’ disproportionately large carbon footprint and resistance to a national policy on climate change mitigation are hurdles to the U.S. achieving a better ranking.

The GGEI isn’t the only sustainability ranking of countries. The Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy and Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network recently released their 2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), a similar but more expansive ranking of 178 nations on environmental health and ecosystem vitality. Switzerland topped that list, followed by Luxembourg, Australia, Singapore and the Czech Republic. Sweden ranked 9th and the U.S. 33rd.

The fact that global rankings like the GGEI and EPI exist shows without a doubt that sustainability concerns are a global phenomenon, and that people from Iceland to Australia (two highly ranked countries) realize the importance of taking care of Mother Earth. Despite issuing different rankings, both indices had a lot in common, with five countries (Norway, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Spain) making the top 10 list of each. Another common conclusion was that the U.S. has much to do if it hopes to be taken seriously among world leaders committed to protecting the planet and our common future.

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Less Than 1% Of Sweden's Trash Ends Up In Landfills

by Justine Alford

 Humans produce an astonishing amount of trash and we all know it’s not good for the environment. We can shove it away in landfills, but there are numerous environmental problems associated with these ugly rubbish dumps. Greenhouse gases such as methane seep out of them and toxic chemicals, for example from household cleaning products, can pollute both the soil and groundwater. They’re also smelly, noisy, can damage wildlife and are breeding grounds for disease-transmitting vermin.

While recycling has helped cut down on the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, a considerable amount still gets dumped in them all over the world each year. But one country is showing us that it doesn’t have to be that way—Sweden.

Swedish people produce about the same amount of waste per year as other Europeans but, remarkably, less than 1% of household trash ends up in landfills. This is in part due to the 32 waste-to-energy (WTE) plants that have been set up across the country. These plants incinerate over two million tons of trash annually—almost 50% of the waste produced by the country—and have been in operation for years, according to the Huffington Post.

Of course, Sweden still recycles whatever it can, but anything that can’t be reused or recycled normally ends up at these WTE plants. As the name suggests, the garbage doesn’t go to waste but is used to generate energy. WTE plants contain huge incinerators for the trash. As it’s burnt, steam is produced that spins generator turbines which produce electricity. This is then transferred to transmission lines and distributed across the country by a grid.

Amazingly, WTE plants provide close to a million homes with heating and over a quarter of a million homes with electricity. So not only is it reducing the amount of trash that ends up in landfills, but it also helps to reduce Sweden’s reliance on fossil fuels.

“A good number to remember is that three tons of waste contains as much energy as one ton of fuel oil… so there is a lot of energy in waste,” Göran Skoglund, spokesperson for Ă–resundskraft, one of the country’s leading energy companies, explains in the short video below. That means that the two million tons of waste incinerated each year produces around 670,000 tons worth of fuel oil energy. Sweden even helps to clean up other countries in the EU by importing their trash and burning it.

But what about the environmental impacts of burning rubbish? The process generates byproducts such as ash that contain dioxins, a class of chemical contaminant. However, over the years Sweden has significantly improved the process and byproducts are cleaned up, meaning that only a tiny amount of dioxins are dispersed into the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, because many products contain materials that cannot currently be recycled or incinerated, landfills are still necessary. Reducing the amount of waste we produce altogether would obviously be the best solution, but that is easier said than done. Still, it seems Sweden is making good of a bad situation, and maybe eventually other countries will start to follow suit.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Frackers are dumping toxic waste into California's groundwater

California can officially add one more disaster to its rapidly growing list of water woes: The EPA just found that at least nine fracking sites throughout the state have been dumping billions of gallons of contaminated wastewater into its protected aquifers.

Not only do many of these aquifers supply drinking water to residents throughout the Central Valley, they’re also reaching dangerously low levels due to overuse, as many farmers rely on aquifers for irrigation and have been overpumping groundwater supplies as the drought carries on.

According to a letter sent to the EPA by the California State Water Resources Board, roughly 3 billion gallons of wastewater were illegally injected into aquifers throughout central California. The EPA ordered the report following contamination concerns after 11 fracking wastewater injection wells were shut down in July by state officials, DeSmogBlog reports:

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity, reveals … that half of the water samples collected at the 8 water supply wells tested near the injection sites have high levels of dangerous chemicals such as arsenic, a known carcinogen that can also weaken the human immune system, and thallium, a toxin used in rat poison.

Timothy Krantz, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Redlands, says these chemicals could pose a serious risk to public health: “The fact that high concentrations are showing up in multiple water wells close to wastewater injection sites raises major concerns about the health and safety of nearby residents.”

The full scope of the contamination still remains to be seen — as many as 19 other injection wells could be sources of contamination as well, according to the report. Historic drought, top water officials who don’t follow their own water restrictions, and now widespread contamination of what little water in the state is left? The Golden State just can’t catch a break.

Confirmed: California Aquifers Contaminated With Billions Of Gallons of Fracking Wastewater, DeSmogBlog.

California Plastic Bag Ban

California made big news recently when it announced the first statewide ban on plastic shopping bags set to kick in during the middle of 2015. Beginning in July, large grocery stores, pharmacies and other food retailers in the Golden State will no longer be able to send shoppers home with plastic bags, while convenience markets, liquor stores and other small food retailers will join the ranks a year later.

Back in 2007, San Francisco became the first U.S. municipality to ban plastic shopping bags. In intervening years upwards of 132 other cities and counties in 18 states and the District of Columbia instituted similar measures. Of course, Americans are late to the party when it comes to banning plastic bags: The European Union, China, India and dozens of other nations already have plastic bag bans or taxes in place.

But the trend here toward banning plastic shopping bags comes in the wake of new findings regarding the extent and harm of plastic in our environment. Since plastic isn’t biodegradable, it ends up either in landfills or as litter on the landscape and in waterways and the ocean. Plastic can take hundreds of years to decompose and releases toxins into the soil and water in the process.

Littered plastic is also a huge problem for the health of wildlife, as many animals ingest it thinking it is food and can have problems thereafter breathing and digesting. The non-profit Worldwatch Institute reports that at least 267 species of marine wildlife are known to have suffered from entanglement or ingestion of marine debris, most of which is composed of plastic; tens of thousands of whales, birds, seals and turtles die every year from contact with ocean-borne plastic bags. A recent European Commission study on the impact of litter on North Sea wildlife found that some 90 percent of the birds examined had plastic in their stomachs.

Another reason for banning plastic bags is their fossil fuel burden. Plastic is not only made from petroleum—producing it typically requires a lot of fossil-fuel-derived energy. The fact that Americans throw away some 100 billion plastic grocery bags each year means we are drilling for and importing millions of barrels worth of oil and natural gas for a convenient way to carry home a few groceries.

It’s hard to measure the impact of pre-existing plastic bag bans, but some initial findings look promising. A plastic bag tax levied in Ireland in 2002 has reportedly led to a 95 percent reduction in plastic bag litter there. And a study by San Jose, California found that a 2011 ban instituted there has led to plastic litter reduction of “approximately 89 percent in the storm drain system, 60 percent in the creeks and rivers, and 59 percent in City streets and neighborhoods.”

Environmental groups continue to push for more plastic bag bans. “As U.S. natural gas production has surged and prices have fallen, the plastics industry is looking to ramp up domestic production,” reports the Earth Policy Institute. “Yet using this fossil fuel endowment to make something so short-lived, which can blow away at the slightest breeze and pollutes indefinitely, is illogical—particularly when there is a ready alternative: the reusable bag.”

CONTACTS: Worldwatch Institute; Earth Policy Institute.
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Wednesday, October 08, 2014

'Susan G. Komen Partners With Global Fracking Corporation to Launch “Benzene and Formaldehyde for the Cure®”'

What a Scam

San Francisco, CA – Breast Cancer Action today thanked Susan G. Komen and Baker Hughes for partnering on the most ludicrous piece of pink sh*t they’ve seen all year – 1,000 shiny pink drill bits. BCAction hailed this partnership as the most egregious example of “pinkwashing” they’ve ever seen and heartily lauded Komen and Baker Hughes for doing their bit to increase women’s risk of breast cancer with their toxic fracking chemicals.

BCAction commended Baker Hughes and Komen for their ingenious pinkwashing profit cycle, whereby Baker Hughes helps fuel breast cancer while Komen raises millions of dollars to try to cure it.

“With all the toxic chemicals Baker Hughes is pumping into the ground, we thought they didn’t care about women’s health. However, this partnership with Komen makes it clear where both organizations stand on this issue,” said Karuna Jaggar, executive director of Breast Cancer Action.

Breast Cancer Action coined the term pinkwashing as part of their Think Before You Pink® campaign to describe a company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but also produces, manufactures and/or sells products linked to the disease. Over 700 chemicals are commonly used in the process of drilling and fracking for oil and gas. At least 25% of these chemicals increase our risk of cancer.

“Komen has been notably absent from all discussions about fracking and breast cancer, but with these pink drill bits they are thrusting this issue onto the national stage,” Jaggar said. “Now people will learn how fracking relies on carcinogens like formaldehyde and benzene. Personally, I love a good dose of benzene with my pink ribbon.”

Baker Hughes is certainly “doing their bit” by fracking for gas and oil, which entails taking millions of gallons of water, mixing it with tens of thousands of gallons of chemicals and pumping the mixture underground at extreme pressure to break up rock formations and release oil or natural gas. Baker Hughes has been busy breaking up all those rock formations and injecting chemical-laden water deep underground – in 2013, the corporation made $22.4 billion drilling for gas and oil.

These drill bits are painted a specially commissioned pink to exactly match Komen’s brand color. Baker Hughes will use these pink drill bits to create an underground path for their special toxic mix of fracking chemicals that have a high chance of seeping into groundwater supplies and poisoning all living things in the vicinity, including women’s bodies.

“When future generations have to choose between safe drinking water and developing breast cancer, they can look back and thank Baker Hughes and Susan G. Komen,” Jaggar said.

Best regards,
Breast Cancer Action
657 Mission St., #302
San Francisco, CA 94105
415.243.3996 (fax)
877.278.6722 (toll free)

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Watch Morgan Freeman present an awesome vision of a green future

This short film, What’s Possible, kicked off the recent U.N. Climate Summit, presented and narrated by Morgan Freeman (as only Morgan Freeman can).

He puts in perspective what 'green' is all about and suggests we cut the political crap and use a common sense approach about the issues.....before it's too late. It's one of the best videos I've seen on the subject and encourage everyone to check it out.  View it HERE

Friday, October 03, 2014

Stop Toxic Air in Montana!

by Montana Environmental Information Center

PPL earned $1.1 billion in profits in 2013, and can afford to clean up its toxic air pollution. It just doesn’t want to spend the money. PPL just asked the State to give it another year before it has to control its toxic air pollution. Tell DEQ to say NO to this appalling corporate handout!

After decades of delay, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopted the first-ever federal limits for toxic air pollutants from coal-fired power plants in 2012. The regulation, known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), requires coal-fired power plants to reduce toxic air pollutants such as mercury, arsenic, and heavy metals by 2015. These pollutants harm public health, they harm the environment, and power plants have been pumping massive quantities of toxins into the air for far too long.

Now, PPL, the operator of the Colstrip coal plant, has asked the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for yet another delay – this time for an entire year – before having to control Colstrip’s toxic air pollution. DEQ should protect the public’s right to breathe clean air. It should protect public health not corporate polluters! It should just say NO!

Germany has hit a new clean energy milestone

So far this year, Germany has gotten more electricity from renewables than from any other single source, 27.7 percent. That (just barely) beats the 26.3 percent of power generated by lignite coal, according to Agora research organization.

Wind accounted for 9.5 percent of the power fed into the country’s grid in the first nine months of 2014, biomass for 8.1, solar for 6.8 percent, and hydropower for less than 4 percent.

Last year, Germany got 24.1 percent of its electricity from renewables, so it’s up more than 3 percent. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is aiming to get as much as 60 percent of the nation’s electricity from clean sources by 2035, even while phasing out nuclear power by 2022.

The U.S., by contrast, thanks to a broken and corrupt political system and a greedy do nothing congress, got just 6 percent of its electricity from wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal last year, and other 7 percent from hydro.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

October: Breast Cancer Awareness Scam Month

by Karuna Jagger
Executive Director
Breast Cancer Action

It’s Breast Cancer Industry Month and the pink floodgates have opened. And again we ask: what have all these pink ribbon products and promotions done for women living with and at risk of breast cancer?

Pinkwashing is now a household word. People understand that you always have to “follow the money” in pink ribbon marketing. We’ve exposed the hypocrisy in pink ribbon fundraising and achieved some momentous wins against corporations.

This October, we’re taking it further. We’re calling out the empty awareness, the misinformation, the profiteering, the pinkwashing, the degrading of women, the “tyranny of cheerfulness” that hides the harsh realities of this disease.

We’re sick of marketing giants raking in billions of pink ribbon dollars while women continue to be diagnosed with and die from this disease.

This October, we’re targeting some of the most outrageous pink ribbon promotions that exemplify everything that’s wrong with pink ribbon culture:

  • The NFL is spreading misinformation about breast cancer by repeating disproven and misleading advice about mammography screening in their “Crucial Catch” campaign. 
  • Kohls’ recent “Pink Elephant in the Room” promotion was outrageous profiteering; it exploited concern for women affected by breast cancer to make millions for the company.
  • Alhambra Water is pinkwashing by selling plastic polycarbonate water bottles which contain BPA, a hormone-disrupting chemical linked to breast cancer.
  • NASCAR is selling breast cancer awareness t-shirts that say “Check Your Headlights” which degrade women by objectifying and sexualizing women’s breasts and bodies.
  • Hooters’ breast cancer campaigns obscure the harsh reality of breast cancer by promoting a story of triumphant survivorship based on positive thinking, beauty tips, and sanitized, carefully chosen images of women.
  • Oriental Trading is spreading empty awareness via its endless supply of plastic pink ribbon trinkets – the company pockets all the money from these sales!
If these marketing giants really care about addressing breast cancer, they’ll Stop the Distraction! They’ll take bold action, provide evidence-based information, be accountable and transparent in their fundraising, stop degrading women, value women’s diversity, and stop hiding the harsh realities of this disease. READ >

Also, check out this blog.

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